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have done for their reliques, they had not so grossly erred in the art of perpetuation ; but to subsist in bones, and be but pyramidally extant, is a fallacy in duration. Vain ashes, which in the oblivion of names, persons, times, and sexes, bave found unto themselves a fruitless continuation, and only arise unto late posterity, as emblems of mortal vanities ; antidotes against pride, vain glory, and madding vices. Pagan vain glories which thought the world might last for ever, had encouragement for ambition, and finding no Atropos unto the immortality of their names, were never dampt with the necessity of oblivion. Even old ambitions had the advantage of ours, in the attempts of their vain-glories, who acting early and before the probable meridian of time, have, by this time found great accomplishment of their designs, whereby the ancient heroes have already out-lasted their monuments, and mechanical preservations. But in this latter scene of time we cannot expect such mummies unto our memories, when ambition may fear the prophecy of Elias, and Charles the Fifth can never bope to live within two Methuselabs of Hector."
.He proceeds to argue against the passionate desire of fame, from the slender relics which it usually embalms of its followers. “ To be read by bare inscriptions, like many in
first letters of our names; to be studied by antiquaries, who we were, and have new names given to us like some of the mummies, are cold consolations unto the students of perpetuity, even by everlasting languages.” He unmasks the frigid ambition of those, who desire merely to be known as having been. “ Who;" he demands, “ cares to subsist like Hippocrates's patients, or Achilles' horses in Homer, under naked nominations, without deserts or noble acts, which are the balsam of our memories, the Entelechia and soul of our subsistences ? To be nameless in worthy deeds, exceeds an infamous history.” What moral sublimity is here! And with how noble a glimpse into the night of forgotten things, - a halflifting of the veil of oblivion,-does he ask, “who knows whether the best of men be known? or whether there be not more remarkable persons forgot, than any that stand remembered in the known account of time?” Having, with further richness of illustration, and quaint philosophy, shewn the uncertainty of all human memorials of the dead, he holds a question with man's immortality after death, and retaining alf reverential belief in future life, yet seems to hesitate whether God hath promised a duration absolutely endless. From this high speculation, he recalls himself to the nobleness of man, as evinced by the solemnities of burial, taking the grave stone for his faith to lean on, and for his hope's moveless resting placem" But man is a noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave, solemnizing nativities and deuths with equal lustre, and not omitting ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature.”
How stupendous is the following moralizing on human
trivances for preservation of the earthly frame, and on the vain hopes of men to perpetuate their memories in the changeless movements of the stars.;
« Darkness and light divide the course of time, and oblivion shares with memory a great part even of our living beings'; we slightly remember our felicities, and the smartest strokes of affliction leave but short smart upon us. Sense endureth no extremities, and sorrows destroy usor -themselves. To weep into stones are fables. Affictions induce callosities, miseries are slippery, or fall like snow upon us, which notwithstanding is no unhappy stupidity. To be ignorant of evils to come, and forgetful of evils past, is a merciful provision in nature, whereby we digest the mixture of our few and evil days; and our delivered senses not relapsing into cutting remembrances, our sorrows are not kept raw by the edge of repetitions. A great part of antiquity contented their hopes of subsistency with a transmigration of their souls a good way to continue their memories; while having the advantage of plural successions, they could not but act something remarkable in such variety of beings, and enjoying the fame of their passed selves, make accumulation of glory unto their last durations. Others, rather tban be lost in the uncomfortable night of nothing, were content to recede into the common being, and make one particle of the publick soul of all things, which was no more than to return into their unknown and divine original again. Egyptian ingenuity was more unsatisfied, contriving their bodies in sweet consistences, to attend the return of their souls. But all was vanity, feeding the wind, and folly. The Egyptian mummies, which Cambyses, or time hath spared, avarice now consumeth. Mummy is become merchandise, Mizraim cures wounds, and Pbaraoh is sold for balsams.
« In vain do individuals hope for immortality, or any patent from oblivion, in preservations below the moon; men have been deceived even in their flatteries above the sun, and studied conceits to perpetuate their names in heaven. The various cosmography of that part hath already varied the names of contrived constellations ; Nimrod is lost in Orion, and Osyris in the Dog-star. While we look for incorruption in the heavens, we find they are but like the earth-durable in their main bodies, alterable in their parts: whereof beside comets and new stars, perspectives begin to tell tales. And the spots that wander about the sun, with Phæton's favour, would make clear conviction."
Sir Thomas Browne has been contrasted with Bishop Jeremy Taylor, who like him wrote on death, and delighted to contemplate the symbols of man's decay. But po two things can be more opposite than their modes of treating the sacred theme. Jeremy Taylor broods only over the surface of the subject, and tinges it with roseate hues. He enters not the recesses of the grave, but moralizes at its entrance. While Sir Thomas Browne rakes among the bones for some strange relic in the deep bed of mortality; the most christian
of bishops gently gathers the sweet: flowers which peep forth on the green above it. The former ransacks antiquity, and the hidden corners of strange learning for his illustrątions; the latter steals the ready smile of some sleeping child, or the modest bloom of a virgin cheek. The imagination of Sir Thomas Browne reflects the faded forms of old, half forgotten things.; that of Jeremy Taylor is overspread with the blushing tints of aërial beauty, like a lake beneath the sweetest sky, of evening, in which the very multitude of lovely shadows prevent any one clear and majestic image from appearing unbroken. The first carries us out of ourselves into the grand abstractions of our nature; the last touches the pulses of individual joy, and awakens delicious musings and indistinct emotions of serious delight, such “ as make a chrysome child to smile.” In the works of Browne, we hear “ ancestral voices ;” in those of Taylor, we listen to the sweet warblings of the angelic choir. "Sir Thomas Browne does not shed sweet radiance on the stream of life—but he fathoms its most awful deeps, and thence discovers, that it rises not within the horizon of sense, but hath its source in other worlds, and will continue its mystic windings far beyond the shadows of death, which limit our present vision.
Art. VIII. Hieronymi Cardani Mediolanensis de Propria
Vita Liber. Amstelædami, Apud Joannem Ravesteinum. 1654. 12mo, pp. 288.
We cannot conceive a more interesting, or more appropriate employment for a man in the decline of life, than to sit down to write the history of his own actions, his feelings, his thoughts, and his adventures—to think over the early time of his youth-to call back the recollection of companions and friends, dead, distant, or nearly forgotten-to trace his designs in their origin and progress, their completion or disappointment, and compare himself with himself in the several changeful acts of his existence. This is seldom done. Specimens of auto-biography are rare, and valuable as rare. Yet old age is proverbially garrulous; and the desire of being remembered after death is as universal as man himself. To counteract the effect of dispositions so likely to produce communications as these, there must operate some powerful and general causes—which may probably, in some small measure, be found in a very common indisposition in 'men, who are not accustomed to commit their thoughts to writing, or who are not authors by profession, to put pen to paper in
the way of formal composition. If this is the feeling which prevents men from amusing; and instructing either their peculiar progeny, or posterity in general, by an account of their own lives, it is to be lamented that they cannot be convinced of the fact, that all the beauties that this kind of writing would absolutely require, are the natural and unbought charms that accompany a plain unvarnished tale—the emotions of the heart, the movements of the mind in peculiar situations, the personal adventure, or the critical emergency, need only the simple language which spontaneously clothes the thought as it grows. Few men there are, however chequered or busy the scenes of their active life may be, who do not frequently reflect upon their circumstances, and review, with intense consciousness, the map of their past existence-who do not turn an eye of ardent curiosity into the internal operations of their own minds and wills; this practice becomes more frequent, and of longer duration, as a man advances towards the latter end of his life when the old man is established, at the decline of day, by his fire-side, or when walking about his garden in the early morning
To render auto-biography interesting and amusing, we think is no difficult task, presuming, of course, a fair foundation to build upon; but for a man so completely to divest himself of vanity and self-love, that the relation of himself shall be impartial and trustworthy, would be a very uncommon and singular occurrence; that an individual, in addition to this, should be bitter against himself-that he should make himself appear even worse than he may be that he should unnaturally point his own actions with evil motives, and aggravate his own failings, is a case of such remarkable morbidity, as to deserve a particular account. The life of Cardan, the subject of the present article, is nearly such a case. • There are stern task-masters of their own consciences, who would not shrink to take their conduct to pieces, and subject its parts to a rigid examination-whose austere love of truth would enable them to look into the vital operations of their own hearts, without flinching; but very few, if any, who could bring themselves to hold up the account to the eye of the world. It cannot be expected : the best heart would wither at the idea of such an exhibition. Had the Mandeville of Mr. Godwin been a real being, would he ever have been induced to send to the press that awful account of the workings of his soul? Certainly not. Yet how instructive, how intense an interest would such a relation have exacted, could we have relied on the precedent; had it been a reported case, of authority to be quoted in the court where a man sits in judgment upon himself--that awful tri
VOL. 1. PART I.
bunal, where the judge is master of the fact and the lawwhere the witness convicts himself, and the punishment awarded is, the gnawing “ worm that never dies.”
The generality of auto-biographers, however, it must be confessed, do not feel this responsibility to be of so deep a nature; they skim the surface of their lives, and only catch the reflection of their actions in a flattering point of view; they think highly of themselves, magnify their good deeds, and dilute the confession of a fault to a sweet insipid mixture of mistaken virtue and pardonable vice. Such men publish in their life-time, and would be well with their contemporaries. It is not to such works as these, that we have been chiefly alluding, though they may be sufficiently amu- sing, and, when read with discrimination, highly useful. We refer to the dusty and neglected manuscript volume, which is dragged by executors or descendants from forgotten heaps of papers, tattered and worm-eaten, in the bottom of an old chest, and written in many different-looking hands — the production of many a gloomy hour, when the soul was at mortal strife with its own nature.
It has been said that self-knowledge is a science of such difficult attainment, that men " deceive themselves, and say that they have no sin;” that actions appear to the actors of them in so favourable a light, that a writer, de seipso, cannot unravel the truth. We apprehend there is a good deal of error in this opinion: the gãdo cedūToy is not so difficult a task as has been imagined—it is not that men cannot, but that they will not, see the reality. A man always knows, or easily could know, if he would give himself the trouble, the sterling quality of his own deeds; should he, however, be disinclined to enter into the examination, and to throw a sop to his conscience, we readily acknowledge the powerful effect of the casuistry which is ever at hand to gloss over, misrepresent, and soften down; but this is only when there is a traitor in the bosom, and no effort or attempt at resistance is made.
Jerome Cardan was the most remarkable, and at the time, considered one of the greatest men of the sixteenth century. More was written and said about him, and he himself wrote more, than almost any other writer of the age. He was consulted as one who had preternatural information; by some he was almost adored as a demi-god; by others, he was hated as an impostor and a villain; and by others, pitied or despised as a madman. His bitterest antagonist, the elder Scaliger, confessed that at times he wrote as one inspired, and at others as an idiot. Artists frequently came from distant parts of the country, that they might take his portrait.